#IdeasToRetire – Center for Science, Policy & Outcomes – May 9, 2016

I will be speaking at the Center for Science, Policy & Outcomes in Washington, DC on May 9th.

#IdeasToRetire: Information Systems in Public Management, Public Policy, and Governance
Death of ideas are painful. In his classic 1962 book, Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn traces how “normal science” precedes.  In normal science, a field evolves based on prior scientific achievements and is built, brick by brick, from an existing paradigm. The current paradigm grows and evolves and gradually an entire community coalesces around this set of beliefs. Scientific practitioners take great pains to defend the set of beliefs and, over time, the scientific community acts to suppress innovations that conflict with the existing paradigm. Further, the community makes no efforts to discover new ways of doing things, performance anomalies are covered up, discarded or ignored and there is no effort to invent new theory. Even worse, there is an active effort to suppress new theories and those who espouse them. It is only when an existing paradigm is utter bereft of value that the community starts to examine the existing paradigm and challenge it.

IdeasToRetireInformation systems are fundamentally transforming how we manage public institutions and conduct public policy. Yet, even a causal glance at the mainstream public management and public policy research outlets reflects a glaring omission of serious research into information systems when it comes to their design, management, governance, and evaluation. This state of affairs is not acceptable given the critical nature of information systems and their potential to impact how we govern. For all of the investments that the public sector has made in technology, we still see dismal failures in IT usage, management and implementation in government. A critical issue that stands in our way to realizing the full potential of IT when it comes to transforming our public agencies, delivery of public services, and the crafting and execution of public policies – antiquated ideas that hold us back. Adherence to these ideas is causing two undesirable outcomes: (1) an unacceptable gap between the promise of technology and its current failure rate and (2) a failure to fully realize the benefits of technology. In this talk, I will share findings from the #IdeasToRetire project. Our conclusion from this project of this is simple: government is stymied by outmoded ideas and can do better. Fixing this requires both thoughtful insight and courage.

2016 Technology Forum – Ottawa County, Michigan

OC_Tech_Forum_LogoWill be heading to Michigan later this month to keynote the 2016 Technology Forum.

Realizing the Promise of (Open, Mobile, and Big) Data and Technologies for Local Governments

How can we harness data towards innovative local governance that advances our communities? Today, we have all heard about open data, mobile data, and even big (and very big) data. We have also seen a rise in civic hackathons, competitions, and challenges that engage innovators to solve complex problems and promote the use of data analytics for global development. In this presentation, I will use a wide assortment of cases to illustrate a key point, i.e., while we have made great strides in leveraging technology and data, we have undermined its potential due to an under-appreciation of governance and policy nuances. Do not despair! I will outline a series of actionable steps that can be undertaken to rectify this deficiency. Specifically, I will focus on how can we create data-driven development labs to tackle some of our most vexing social and policy challenges.

WHEN: Friday, April 29, 2016, 8:30am-4:00pm
WHERE: Ottawa County Fillmore Complex, West Olive, MI (Map). Enter parking lot B, forum is in main conference room of the County Administration building, second floor, west wing.

IÉSEG School of Management – March 5-13

IESEGLooking forward to returning to IÉSEG School of Management in March to collaborate with colleagues and deliver two research presentations. Thanks to Isabelle Fagnot for organizing the visit.

Governing Mega-Scale IT Projects: The Global Public Sector Experience 

Information Technology (IT) projects are commonplace in the public sector. National, regional, and local governments continue to invest substantial resources into designing, developing, and maintaining information systems. The scale, scope, and potential impacts of IT projects continue to increase. Today, it is typical to find mega-scale IT projects in the public sector. Unfortunately, these projects seldom play out as planned. Mega-scale IT projects often fail to meet expectations, and when they fail, they do so magnificently. In this presentation, I will share lessons learned from a study of six mega-scale IT projects in the public sector. I will specifically call out governance issues associated with contracting, consultants, financing, human resources, leadership, and project management. [Flyer]

Designing Research Programs: Processes, Outputs, and Outcomes

I believe that research needs to be conducted in a manner that advances the greater public good, especially in fields that are of an applied nature (business, engineering, public policy, etc.). Research done with the sole intention of producing a journal article or conference paper is not good enough. Academia has a special responsibility to generate knowledge that advances society. In this talk, I will offer personal reflections on how to structure research programs to maximize several goals. First, to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the research process. Second, to maximize the potential that research outputs will be accepted by scholarly and practitioner communities. Third, to work with stakeholders to leverage the knowledge that is generated, to advance societal outcomes. I will share examples from a wide assortment of projects to elaborate on how scholars can build agile, responsive, and responsible research projects that have relevance beyond the ivory tower. I will pay particular attention to global research projects that are interdisciplinary in nature. In addition to sharing lessons about what works, I will openly share some of the trials and tribulations that I have encountered along the way. [Flyer]

Ideas to Retire Series @ Brookings Institution

logo_Artboard 1I co-designed a new project for the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution along with my colleague Gregory DawsonIdeas to Retire is a TechTank series of blog posts.  These posts identify outdated practices in public sector IT management and suggest new ideas for improved outcomes. I am happy to report that the series launched today!  You can find the introduction here. We will be featuring two ideas a week for the next 10 weeks.

Of the first two ideas featured, one is by James Keene (City Manager, Palo Alto, CA) co-authored with Jonathan Reichental (CIO, City of Palo Alto, CA). You can read about their idea here. The second idea is from David Bray (CIO, FCC).

Stay tuned for contributions from several other luminaries including Steve Kelman (Harvard University), John L. King (University of Michigan), Ramayya Krishnan (Carnegie Mellon University), Dan Chenok (IBM),  Alfred Ho (University of Kansas), Jane Fountain (University of Massachusetts), Marc Ott (City Manager, Austin, TX), Neal Myrick (Tableau Foundation), Ellen Lettvin (US Department of Education), Richard T. Watson (University of Georgia), José Esteves (IE Business School), and Jonathan Liebenau (London School of Economics), Phil Howard (University of Washington), among others.

Thanks to all contributors that participated in this project!

Enjoy #IdeastoRetire

 

Creating a Balanced Portfolio of Information Technology Metrics

DesouzaCoverMetricsMy new report published by the IBM Center for the Business of Government is now available.

Creating a Balanced Portfolio of Information Technology Metrics

Information technology has made possible the availability of real-time data and the tools to display that data, such as dashboards, scorecards, and heat maps. This has boosted the use of data and evidence by government decision makers in meeting their agency and program missions. But what about the use of performance metrics by agency chief information officers themselves?

Typically, CIOs have a good inventory of metrics regarding the performance of their technical infrastructure, such as server down time. Metrics on non-technical elements, however — such as innovation capacity of the IT department and the health of the overall IT organization — are in earlier stages of development. These metrics are critical for CIOs to effectively manage their IT departments, and to convey the strategic value of IT capabilities for attaining agency-wide objectives.

A balanced portfolio of metrics are needed: for project management, for operations management, and for innovation. Based on interviews with over two dozen seasoned government CIOs, the report identifies illustrative metrics that CIOs might consider adopting and offers a set of recommendation for how CIOs might go about designing, implementing, and evaluating the effectiveness of their metrics initiatives.

Deakin University – Research Seminar

Deakin_Worldly_LogoI am enjoying two weeks in Melbourne. I have been collaborating with colleagues from Deakin University and the University of Melbourne on research projects. On Tuesday, I will deliver a research seminar at the Faculty of Business and Law on IT Experiments for Social and Policy Innovation: A Design Science Perspective.

Information systems are critical assets that need to be strategically leveraged for social and policy innovation. In this presentation, I will highlight ongoing research projects showcasing how analytical, computational, and visualization technologies can be employed to solve some of the pressing global and public challenges from combating human trafficking to urbanization and sustainability. I will discuss these projects as learning experiments focusing on creating applied IT solutions while furthering evidence-driven policy design, implementation, and evaluation. Finally, a design-science inspired model to co-create innovative IT solutions will be presented.

On Wednesday, I will be spending the entire day meeting with researchers and faculty at the University of Melbourne.

Local Government 2035: Strategic Trends and Implications of New Technologies

11295579_10155567198015471_2381307221559114104_nToday, the Brookings Institution released the Local Government 2035: Strategic Trends and Implications of New Technologies paper as part of the Issues in Technology Innovation series.

Technological change is increasingly disruptive and destabilizing. In order to maintain effective governance systems, public sector entities must overcome stagnant tendencies and take a proactive stance—acting in the face of impending technological innovations. Future government entities must evolve into lean, responsive, and adaptive organizations capable of rapid response to societal shifts.

In this paper, we illustrate how technological advancements, such as the proliferation of drone technologies, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and peer-2-peer services, will introduce data privatization challenges and destabilize existing governance systems. In order to maintain effective service delivery, public sector entities must increasingly consider the ramifications technology will have on income inequality, fragile and conflict states, and immigration—just to name a few.

They conclude by urging policymakers and government managers to chart out trends based on data, model the interactions within complex systems, and study the pathways towards outcomes to unearth intended and unintended consequences of strategic choices. The authors argue that designing a path forward for local governments will require deliberate collaboration among diverse stakeholders, an immersive engagement with the data and scenarios that will shape local communities, and employment of decision-tools to model and simulate alternatives.

Click here to download the paper.

Essen and Münster – Research Presentations and AIS Council Meetings

Aufmacher_allg_BottropI am heading to Germany for the week. First stop will be in Essen, where I will be deliver two lectures at Hochschule Ruhr West: University of Applied Sciences.  

Disentangling Management of Information Systems in the Public Sector

Information systems are critical assets that need to be strategically leveraged in the public sector. Yet, we know little when it comes to IT governance in the public sector. Testament to this statement is the constant barrage of negative press on cyber attacks, to blockbuster IT project failures, and inability to leverage IT for innovation. In this presentation, I will highlight lessons learned from several research projects that have examined management of IS issues in the public sector from performance metrics, to big and open data, cybersecurity, the design and implementation of strategic IS plans, crowdsourcing platforms, and CIOs. These lessons will be framed in the broader context of how we might disentangle complexities associated with the designing, planning, and management strategic information systems in the public sector.

Challenges in Inter-Disciplinary Research: Strategies from Crafting Research Ideas to Publishing.

In this presentation, I will share my experiences in executing inter-disciplinary research projects. Studying complex phenomenon requires us to undertake research that (1) draws on multiple disciplines, (2) engages a diverse group of stakeholders, (3) appreciates a plurality of research approaches, and (4) communicates to a diverse set of audiences. Executing inter-disciplinary research is no easy feat to accomplish. Researchers face daunting challenges from the onset, beginning with the inception of ideas, then continuing to the crafting of problem statements, executing the research process, and communicating the results via publications in academic and practitioner outlets. However, these challenges should not be viewed as an excuse to abandon inter-disciplinary research in favor of narrow-minded and singular research exercises, which reduce complex phenomenon in deterministic fashions so as to arrive at irrelevant solutions. I will present a method (process) for executing inter-disciplinary research that has served me well. Illustrative examples of research projects will be used to exemplify this process and outline strategies for researchers to consider when conducting inter-disciplinary research projects. I will also highlight when it is time to ‘kill’ theories and concepts in order to promote radical innovation.

For more details, see link.

Next, I head to Münster for the European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS) and the Association for Information Systems Council Meetings.

The Sharing Economy and IT Metrics

Gov_logoI recently authored a piece for Governing on how the sharing economy has interesting implications for the future of local governments. Click here for the article. This paper is based on a research study that my team completed on how technology is shaping the future of government. The complete report will be released by the Brookings Institution.

 

fcw-logoMy article with Alison Sutherland on information technology metrics appeared in the April 15 print edition of Federal Computer Week. Click here to see the article. The web version of the article is available here.